Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Common Sense Tips

When students come to me with questions about  motivation, how they can make themselves write when they don't feel like it, I give them some tips I've learned along the way, both through experience and through books I've read (by Stephen King, Elizabeth Berg, Anne Lamott, etc).  These are common-sense tips, but they really do work:

*Never finish a chapter and then stop for the day.  Always go one step further and write down the first couple of sentences of the next chapter.  That way, when you sit down to write again tomorrow, you've already started.  It's not so daunting.

*Open up what you wrote yesterday and read it.  Inevitably, you'll get drawn back into the story again, and the ideas will start flowing.  The hope is that once you read the end of that section, you're ready to keep it going and write the next section.

*Open yourself up to the process.  Take a walk, brainstorm, talk it out.  Allow yourself to think that you CAN write something today.  Give yourself the opportunity.

*Shut off the time-wasters:  Facebook, Twitter, email.  These are the enemies of writing.  They're competing for our time.

*Just do it.  When all else fails, plant yourself in front of your keyboard and write something.  Even if it's terrible.  You can always come back and clean it up later.

And finally, a couple of great motivating quotes:

"I am not at all in the humor for writing.  I must write on until I am."  ~Jane Austen

"Do or do not.  There is no try."  ~Yoda

Friday, February 22, 2013

Uniqueness of Fiction

I was struck the other day by something I hadn't really thought much about.  How, in real life, we only know pieces of someone's story, fragments.  We see whatever they choose to present to the world, what they want the world to see.  We don't know the inner workings of their minds, their motives, their quiet private moments.

But in fiction, we get to experience that, as readers.  We're allowed to peek into a character's mind, know his thoughts, see his fears, dreams, weaknesses, motives.

And I think that's partly why fiction is such a popular medium.  We, the readers, are able to experience something that we're not able to experience in real life.  We "get to know" characters personally, intimately, sometimes moreso than people in real life.  And something about that can be very satisfying.

Of course, for writers, that's the beauty of fiction--that we're allowed to create these characters from scratch, get to know them, then reveal whatever we want about them to the reader, and let the reader get to know them intimately, too.